A Miami judge has found that bitcoin isn’t the same as money and tossed criminal charges against a man accused of selling $1,500 worth of the virtual currency to undercover agents.
Judge Teresa Mary Pooler ruled on Monday that bitcoin isn’t money, the Miami Herald reports.
As a result, Pooler said, defendant Michell Abner Espinoza wasn’t
operating an unlicensed money-services business. “The court is not an
expert in economics, however, it is very clear, even to someone with
limited knowledge in the area, the bitcoin has a long way to go before
it the equivalent of money,” Pooler wrote.
Pooler also ruled there was insufficient evidence that Espinoza
committed the crime of money laundering. He was accused of selling
bitcoin to federal agents who said they were going to use the currency
to buy stolen credit-card numbers.
The state statute requires those charged to intend to promote illegal
activity, but the word promote “is troublingly vague,” Pooler wrote.
“There is unquestionably no evidence that the defendant did anything
wrong, other than sell his bitcoin to an investigator who wanted to make
a case,” Pooler wrote.
The case is believed to be the first money-laundering prosecution
involving bitcoin and was “closely watched in tech, financial and legal
circles,” according to the Miami Herald.